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Why doesn’t Exalted have a metaplot?

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  • #61
    Fundamentally, an RPG book is not a novel. It should not be treated as one. To do so without compromising its capability as an RPG book is difficult to say the least.
    At the core of it, every word you (the author) spend telling me what other characters are doing is a word you aren't telling the player what they could be doing. In fact, it's not even neutral, it's negative. My character can't do that because this other character already did.
    While I acknowledge the point made upthread by KnightFenrirWulfhart that a metaplot development isn't that different from a splatbook or setting book when it comes to invalidating existing campaigns, there is difference in how predictable it is. I can know that, for example, setting a game in Jiara is going to require me to have to make up a lot about Jiara, as no setting book that covers it in more than just a few paragraphs has yet been released. This is something I know, something I can plan around. It's something entirely different when I pick up the latest book to discover that Jiara was wiped off the map in the latest update. More broadly, setting and splat books tend to expand on what's already there, while metaplot tends to change what's already there.
    Finally, every defender of metaplot ever has defended it with "well if you don't like it, just don't use it!" The problem with that is that it's in the book, taking up wordcount. It's expected that it will be used, because if it wasn't, then why would the authors and developers put it in? How much extra am I paying for 5k words that expand on a metaplot I'm not using? What else could those 5k words have been used for? How much utility is this book, this book that is ostensibly meant to help me play a game, sacrificing to tell me stories about characters that I don't play doing things that I can't do.
    If you want a gripping fictional narrative in your game world, then read fiction. Read a tie-in novel, or a fanfic. Don't make my game books worse by making them pull double duty as novels.

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    • #62
      Originally posted by GhanjRho View Post
      At the core of it, every word you (the author) spend telling me what other characters are doing is a word you aren't telling the player what they could be doing. In fact, it's not even neutral, it's negative. My character can't do that because this other character already did.
      While this can be true for very broad things like a metaplot, for fiction pieces in the books (even ones that have a minor ongoing story such as different adventures of the signature characters) the authors are using word count to communicate to players what their characters can do in the game. Fiction pieces help communicate the intentions of the developers by showing it via narrative.

      Finally, every defender of metaplot ever has defended it with "well if you don't like it, just don't use it!" The problem with that is that it's in the book, taking up wordcount.
      To an extent, though I offered a defense of metaplot that directly addresses this concern: metaplot only happens in metaplot books that you'd only be buying because you enjoy following the metaplot; thus the optional nature of it is actualized effectively.

      Don't make my game books worse by making them pull double duty as novels.
      Nobody's asking gaming books to be novels. However putting fiction pieces in gaming books is clearly of value to enough customers that gaming companies keep doing it. The issues with metaplot are when things start stringing together between books, not when there's fiction in one book.

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      • #63
        Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post

        While this can be true for very broad things like a metaplot, for fiction pieces in the books (even ones that have a minor ongoing story such as different adventures of the signature characters) the authors are using word count to communicate to players what their characters can do in the game. Fiction pieces help communicate the intentions of the developers by showing it via narrative.



        To an extent, though I offered a defense of metaplot that directly addresses this concern: metaplot only happens in metaplot books that you'd only be buying because you enjoy following the metaplot; thus the optional nature of it is actualized effectively.



        Nobody's asking gaming books to be novels. However putting fiction pieces in gaming books is clearly of value to enough customers that gaming companies keep doing it. The issues with metaplot are when things start stringing together between books, not when there's fiction in one book.

        This is true, For an example, the brief fiction piece about the Vendetta in the House Iselsi section of WFHW. Written as a fiction piece because the author couldn't get it to work as anything else.

        I think Cthulhutech did it that way, with all the metaplot in a few dedicated metaplot books. Definitely the way I'd do it, if I had to.

        More specifically, I'd say the big problem is when the interconnected fiction is in the present, and (especially) covering major events. Reading about Tepet Arada killing Fear Eater? Big, but in the past. Strawmaiden Janest facing off against a Raksha horde? Big for her, not for Creation. My rule of thumb is that game fiction should inspire "I wanna do that!", not "Why couldn't I have been the one to do that?"

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        • #64
          Metaplots probably aren't like, objectively bad

          But I have yet to see what in a gameline that I thought added to the gameline, rather than detracting from it

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          • #65
            Metaplots are already a bit shaky for something on the power scale of, say, D&D, but when you try to apply one to Exalted, a game where the expected PC is capable of single-handedly changing the entire setting with enough effort, it really doesn't work. A Solar Circle can straight up topple empires, uncover grand lost secrets, form their own empire, and go as far as fundamentally changing the foundation of existence. This is also why pre-made adventures don't work for Exalted--or at least, for Solars--because PC's can often just utterly smash through what would be narratively interesting roadblocks in other systems with their supernal skill (now, an adventure for DB's...that might be able to work).

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            • #66
              Originally posted by JohnDoe244 View Post
              I was talking about N/A artifacts and I remembered this gem from the 1E Storyteller's Companion:
              That middle quote, specifically, has stuck with me through the years and across editions. Thanks for digging that up; I couldn't remember if it was from that book or one of the developer q&a's or whatever.

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              • #67
                Looking at that line from the Storyteller's Companion, I find myself considering that I don't own enough First Edition books to know if it's something that they ever quite followed through on.

                I have seen plenty of quotes from freelancers archived from forums in which they make statements that make more sense as allusions to events planned to be in future books (revelations of the Scarlet Empress as the Bride of the Ebon Dragon figure prominently among them), but I'm still curious how much was ever implemented or if it was a plan that ended up being phased out a bit.

                The Scarlet Empress stuff at least gets a throughline across Exalted: The Dragon-Blooded, Games of Divinity and Aspect Book: Earth...

                In any case, reading that statement does make me think of how I've a fondness for when the inter-chapter fictions continuously develop storylines. Even in Second Edition comics, a format I'm otherwise critical of; I have a particular fondness for the serial nature of most stuff there involving Arianna, borne from a period where I was compelled to go back and examine as much stuff as I had possession of to interrogate the popular narrative of her as a reprehensible character.

                Although I think about that and find myself thinking that even if Exalted did commit itself to a World of Darkness-style metaplot, some of the setting composition would need to be reformatted to make it work. I feel as though part of what drives metaplot in something like Vampire: the Masquerade is that there are these massive institutions encompassing the world, some of which are even centrally controlled* to provide an arena in which trends can play out or the ambitions of major individuals can radiate, where Exalted has far less of that even at points where the world seems smallest, and certainly not so much right now. The Exalted and even the Scarlet Realm may be very powerful, but it's ultimately not a world deeply interconnected by globalization, and I think that makes the impact of certain dramatic events slower to roll out. You could publish future supplements in which the Realm Civil War is actually underway, but I feel as though writers might struggle with the matter that plausibly there would be large sections of the world in which that isn't really felt.

                Which might be why the most metaplot like thing they ever pulled off actually was "the Yozis manipulating world events to create conditions for their return, including an outcome where one of them actually pulls it off". I do think there's something telling in how the writers who actually put that together ended up looking back on it with reservations and disliking the implications of writing in characters who could create a metaplot big enough for the whole world.

                Heh, kind of followed the Golden Path to create a world that would be more proof against metaplot; break down the God-Emperors and scatter the populace across a much wider expanse.

                * At least up until the metaplot develops into a big world and game building element of "the central control has broken down and your local chapter has more autonomy than any in living memory".


                I have approximate knowledge of many things.
                Write up as I play Xenoblade Chronicles.

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                • #68
                  Something worth remembering too is that in WoD even, there wasn't a big book of secrets somewhere where they had this grand plan. I remember this when Gehenna came out in 2003. As it turns out, authors just kind of kept making shit up as it went along and by the tiemt hey had to wrap things up, stuff could get weird as they tried to do so.

                  To some extent, this is probably the gist of the entire thing with the Empress in 1e. Note it didn't like, go anywhere in 1e, becuase the gameline wasn't itnerested in it at th eend of the day save as a neat potential story thread. And the authors of the events in 2e were not the same ones writing for 1e most of the time, and so it was basically interpreation of previous stuff going places it felt like. It's not some great settings ecret being revealed but just kind of a general wirter's Round Robin. Which while interesting in ficiton, agian, isn't something wordcount in books I think is best spent on.


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